With all due respect to President Bush, you don't need a road map for peace in the Middle East: You need a car plant in Palestine.
Auto factories are almost magical in their ability to heal troubled societies. They give people a chance to build a better life for themselves and their posterity. And the vehicles they build help liberate the people, giving them a taste for mobility and the fruits of democracy.
It almost worked in Belfast.
In 1978, when John DeLorean tapped into British tax dollars to build a factory in Northern Ireland, there were doubters and skeptics.
True, DeLorean's auto plant failed. But it wasn't because of sectarian violence. DeLorean failed because the business model was flawed and poorly executed.
Yes, there were a few issues in Belfast. On groundbreaking day in October 1978, for example, British soldiers kept protesters away from the factory site.
And OK, a couple years later there were more protests when 11 IRA hunger strikers from the neighborhood, guys like Bobby Sands, starting dying in nearby Maze Prison.
One night, a Molotov cocktail flew over the fence and ignited a temporary storage building. But it was never proved whether the fire was a political act or just arson intended to destroy company records stored in a wooden building.
I'm convinced the DeLorean factory contributed to the peace process in Belfast. That's because workers and local suppliers from every political and religious faction, good people who believed in John DeLorean and his stainless steel dream, ended up with nothing.
You just know things can work out even better in Palestine.
The area is ripe for an auto plant.
I visited Israel 11 years ago during a time of relative peace. Back then, an official from a quasi-governmental agency introduced me to reps from dozens of companies and kibbutzim who wanted to be auto suppliers. I'll bet they still do.
True, most of the products were things that fell into the commodity category, but everyone knew that becoming an auto supplier was a guarantee of full employment, big profits and prosperity.
Israel also has a lot of expertise and experience in key areas like software, machining and manufacturing that are essential for a car plant.
It ought to be easy to find workers because a lot Palestinians need jobs.
Real estate sure won't be a problem. There is plenty of open desert where you could put a decent-sized factory. You just build the plant in an area where you can have separate entrances for Israelis and Palestinians, so workers don't have to travel through each other's neighborhoods to get to work.
The only question left is whether to build a sedan, a sports car or an armored vehicle.
You may e-mail Edward Lapham at [email protected]